The following tactical analysis is brought to you from Rome. The Stadio Olimpico hosted a Serie A match between two teams similar only by the league the play in.
Roma have been in good form this season, and have bought into the philosophy of their manager – Paulo Fonseca. Although the gap between them and Juventus/Inter is large, they certainly look like a team that will fight Lazio all the way for the final automatic Champions League spot.
For Brescia, life in Serie A is certainly more difficult. Coming into the tie they have lost four games on the bounce and sit looking up at all 19 other Serie A teams. Two wins and seven points from 11 games is worrying form for Fabio Grosso’s Biancazurri. They have strong motivation to win, knowing that three points will allow them to move out of the bottom three to the expense of Lecce.
Paulo Fonseca has now had five months in charge of Roma since overtaking from his predecessor – Claudio Ranieri. Unsurprisingly, he’s embedding a 4-2-3-1 formation that worked so well for him at Shakhtar Donetsk. With Roma, he has a similar pool of players to choose from meaning he can be flexible with his philosophy.
He can maintain his high defensive line, as defenders like Chris Smalling and Gianluca Mancini offer both pace and good technical ability. He has a hard-working visionary in Amadou Diawara – similar to Fred at Shakhtar. Edin Dzeko is a perfect target man, but far far from exclusively that. He can drop off to link up with the forward three and leads the high press efficiently.
In contrast, Fabio Grosso tactically builds Brescia to not concede. Having experimented with a 3-5-2 against Verona and Inter, he opted for his favoured 4-4-2 diamond this time. This allows two solid banks of four to defend when without the ball, calling for Romulo Caldiera to pick up defensive duties when needed.
By keeping two up top, Brescia maintains the ability to counter-attack in numbers. Usually, the active Ernesto Torregrossa will drop to form a midfield five block, that can spring at speed to support Alfredo Donnaumma in attack.
Roma’s corner overloads benefitting Smalling
Roma manager Paulo Fonseca is something of a set-piece student. His Porto and Shakhtar teams were above average for goals coming from dead ball situations. It looks like he is going to utilize these at Roma and given the squad he has inherited; it may not be a bad idea. Eight of Roma’s starting 11 are over 6ft, so set pieces can be an advantageous area. For the most part, Fabio Grosso looked like he has set up his team to mark zonally from corners.
Roma created an overload in the central area of the box, filling it with up to six players on occasion. Through a ‘Pack & Stack’ technique, Roma flood the box and neutralize the threat of all players being marked. If the ball is played in successfully, it’s likely that a Roma head will meet it.
In addition to creating overloads from set pieces, Roma also targeted Chris Smalling for the first ball. Tactically, this was astute from Paulo Fonseca as Smalling is distinguished in the air and an effective target from set pieces.
We see a box overload combine with a Smalling target for Roma’s first goal. Four Roma attacks concentrate the area, and cause confusion for the zonal defenders. Smalling arrives into the centre late, but as his no one is tight to him, he has chance to outleap and Brescia defenders.
The frame above shows a Roma corner in the 90th minute. Despite being 3-0 up, the Giallorossi have had so much joy from corners they deploy the same tactic. Four players contain the zonal Brescia defenders, whilst Smalling arrives late and meets the cross. Once more, he gets win the header successfully although this time his header is blocked.
It’s clear to see the target area for Roma set pieces in the above visual.
Brescia’s midfield block vs Roma’s high press
Fabio Grosso set up his Brescia team to block Roma from easily playing through the channels. With Roma operating with a double pivot, and three attacking midfielders ahead of that, it was important that Brescia didn’t allow much space centrally.
The frame above shows the tight midfield block that Brescia operated. In this case, Ernesto Torregrossa has retreated to build a midfield five. As they’ve limited Roma passing lanes, Aleksandar Kolarov is forced to play it either short or a long diagonal pass.
Here we see another example of the midfield block that Brescia employed in the first half. Again they can restrict Roma’s passing options to either back or wide by cutting out all space in between the channels. Although Roma are dangerous on the wings and have a powerful presence in Edin Dzeko, this analysis suggests that Grosso was willing to risk that or central dominance.
In contrast, Roma pressed high and in packs. They were keen to win the ball back high up on the pitch and comfortable knowing Smalling and Mancini would win any long balls.
As is evident in the above frame, Roma were aggressively pressing Brescia from the start. Paulo Fonseca had set his team up to press tight to any passing options, and was rewarded by winning the ball in high positions. Edin Dzeko would often lead the press, and command the other three attacking midfielders to mark the Brescia back four. This would allow one of the two defensive midfielders – Jordan Veretout and Amadou Diawara – to push higher and pressure the Brescia defence further.
In the above frame, all but the back four are pressing high to restrict Brescia passing options. Roma suffocate Brescia’s ability to build up play from the back, and have both double pivots’ present in the press. If Brescia do manage to play it through the first line of press, they will hunt down the second and concede a free kick in needed. After all, it is still deep in Brescia’s half and therefore of little danger.
Roma forcing Brescia towards their own goal in second half
Roma created a close to negligible amount of chances from open play in the first half. The low midfield block had prevented the creation of passing triangles for Roma and they needed to change their tactics in the second half.
To create more openings, Roma employed more movement off the ball to create opportunities for the ball carrier (in this case Lorenzo Pellegrini). By having forwards that are now making runs in different directions and behind the defenders, Roma are stretching the Brescia bus. They are presenting problems to the defenders and making them turn towards their own goal.
The above frame was another example of Roma using attacking runners to create gaps in the Brescia defence. Here Florenzi has a plethora of attacking options. He has a player running on the overlap, three breaching the box and one holding back for a square pass. These near enough equal the Brescia defensive line, and mean the Brescia defenders have to step out of their safe formation to engage. Either way Roma are creating gaps. And gaps equate to chances.
It’s not looking good for Fabio Grosso’s men with Brescia now staring at five defeats in a row. You have to travel back to the end of September for their last win, a solitary goal helping them overcome fellow strugglers Udinese.
Paulo Fonseca will be happy with his teams’ response to the defeat at Parma last out. The 4-2-3-1 seemed to play to their strengths, and allowed for an aggressive high press to pressure Brescia from the start. He will be mindful though that not all opposition are going to be as offensively absent as Brescia.Brescia managed to contain Roma well in the first half, stifling them with the deep midfield block. In the end however, class combined with polished set pieces saw the Giallorossi leave the Stadio Olimpico leave with three points. Brescia on the other hand, have a long journey north with nothing but a few more bruises to lick.
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